Wednesday, August 27, 2014

UConn's Wain thankful for new coach's arrival

If I were to start a list detailing how Bob Diaco is different from some of his predecessors I might not be finished before Friday night's opening kickoff. However, one of the things that really struck me about Diaco is his desire to work with punters. Yes, an overachieving former Big Ten linebacker is not afraid to admit it as he relishes the chance to work with the punters.

"It is fun," Diaco said. "I am working on the field and this is one of my better parts of the day. I love coaching the punter so you get this collection of guys, other than Bobby (Puyol) he is a trained specialist so he is fundamentally kind of tracked and prepared to function and produce. Justin (Wain) shows up and he is this gangly (former) walk-on who has no idea and you watch him move a bit and he possesses some traits so it has been very fun to coach Justin, he is very coachable; he wants to be good. He has (tangible) traits because he is long and athletic, he has good hands, he's got a long pendulum, good leg speed so there would be no reason why we wouldn't be able to be a productive punter. I have been coaching the punters for a long time, I enjoy coaching them and he is getting better and better every day."

What is so intriguing about all of this is that Diaco understands the nuances of punting. I am sure if you asked most major-college football head coaches to work with the punter it would be the equivalent of traveling to a foreign country. They know a good punt when they see one, love seeing kicks with extending hang times and cherish the art of delivering the coffin corner punt to pin opponents within the shadow of their own goal line. However, when it comes time to get that out of a punter, I'm not sure how many coaches could pull that off.

It goes without saying that if UConn took roll call on which players are most excited about Diaco's arrival that Wain would be at the top of the list.

"He is really knowledgeable about punting and he gives me a schedule of what I do so I do drill after drill after drill," Wain said. "There is not a moment when I am not doing something that is helping me punt.

"We used to never have anybody who would help us with punting so if I do something wrong, he knows what I did wrong. It is always great having somebody helping you along the way. It is nice that I don't have to call my coach back home to ask if I am doing something wrong so it is great having him here."

For the past four years Cole Wagner was a known commodity for the Huskies. It didn't matter what else might have been going wrong, when it came time to punt UConn out of trouble Wagner almost always delivered. I'm not saying that Wagner was called upon often but he headed into the latter part of the 2013 season with a chance to set the FBS record for most career punts. That is one record that Wagner was thankful he did not attain. Now the punting will be handled by Wain, a sophomore from Wilmington, N.C. who hasn't punted in a game since he was a senior at Ashley High School in 2011. Wain did, however, average 45.2 yards per punt during the spring game with a long of 65 (although that was little or no pressure applied which will not be the case on Friday).

"You go out with the mindset of you have to get better every day and this is what I am going to work on today, that is my goal and the next  day it is the same thing," Wain said. "We will work and get better. It is kind of the same thing, we are looking to get better but now you have more of a role with the team now where we are no longer backing up people, now you are the punter. It is a little different mindset but it is a similar mindset, we are just trying to get better every day."

Tonight will be the first of Diaco's appearance on the weekly UConn Football Radio Show with Joe D'Ambrosio and a couple of players. As was the case last season, the shows will air live from Wood-n-Tap in Vernon (236 Hartford Turnpike) so fans can swing by to hear what he has to say. Those in the New Haven can tune in beginning at 6 p.m. to hear what Diaco has to say by tuning into WELI-960.

When they are Saturday games the show will take place on Tgursday but since it is a Friday game, the schedule was moved up a day.

Also, tomorrow Diaco will be chatting up UConn football beginning at 6:30 p.m. at a pep rally on campus (on Fairfield Way across from the Husky statue).

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